Choosing Your Comparison Group

Photo: jayneandd

I told my wife that I’m happy when I run my best possible, which I did (25:58) in Sunday’s Komen Run for the Cure 5KM race in Austin.? She said that I should also be very happy that I took first place out of eight old guys in my age category (65-69).? I’ve never placed first before – so I am happy, but less happy than if I had come in second with better competitors. (The second-place finisher was five minutes behind me – the guys who typically run at about my pace didn’t race.) This implies strange things about my?utility function – which is apparently defined not just over absolutes, and not only expanded to include relative position, but also includes relative position compared to what one expects the comparison group to be.? Are there other examples of this type of what I view as rational thinking, but which seems weird on the surface?


I believe that it is human nature to want competition and when we dont get it we feel that we did not earn what we did. When in reality, we are usually always driven to do our best and we should be satisfied when we put in our best effort.


Yea it is fun when you win but it is not all about winning it about having fun and enjoying that game.


In my opinion coming in first to someone who is slightly lower in ability is worthy of a reward, but what would be more rewarding is competing and winning against someone of the same level or slightly better than you. So really your calculations are a little off of what your true ability is. Coming in first in a group of your age group, but having no one at your level doesn't really give you a reliable number in the sense of your level of ability. In all sense, salaries are what come to mind, but that doesn't seem to be weird on the surface.


Impressive that you came in first regardless of the fact that when faced with a challange you feel better about yourself even if you don't place as high as you would if not challanged. So congrats, even if you weren't as challanged as you wanted to be.


I feel like you are putting yourself down for trying your best during a race. Yes, people will be better than you, but there will also be people worse than you. you winning first place is just a benifit of you trying your hardest.


That's amazing that you can run that far at that age. I'm a top athlete at my school and I get gased just running a 2 laps warm up around the track


OK, Daniel, you know I love you, but I also know you're getting a bit of bragging done here on the sly--ha! You deserve it!

The "Pretty Girl" comparison group--where, PRESUMABLY (I haste to mention!), pretty girls surround themselves with less, er, "competitive" girls, which cause the "pretty girl" to look more attractive--is something that might be considered also.


@ Alex in Chicago - Wrestling is already a sport that lowers comparison groups before splitting into state divisions. Those kids shouldn't feel any remorse. Wrestling is restricted fighting and then further restricted into specific weight classes. The 110 lb kid may feel like a champion but would have lossed badly if going against a heavyweight and with other fighting techniques allowed.


This used to be an issue of considerable heartburn in the military. Oftentimes, servicemember A would be awarded a medal for being an executive officer's driver and that award would be assumed to be, in no small measure, because of the developed personal relationship. Meanwhile, servicemember B rearranges and manages an office, or meets an impossible deadline, or learns, excels in and implements a new technology, and gets the same medal. You can see how A looks at B's work and sees himself in high esteem, while B looks at A's effort and sees himself diminished.

Eric M. Jones

A friend of mine claimed he was once the town drunk. The town was Chicago.


I remember one father bragging that his daughter got "silver" in a martial arts competition. He was quite proud, I didn't knock him down because I know - there were only 2 kids competing.

My son was also 3rd of 6 - the worst he'd ever done. I was disappointed, he was thrilled.

I'd be thrilled with a 25:58 5k - my best is 31:38. I usually come in around middle of the pack for my age group, I have no delusions about placing first at least until I'm in your age group - and yeah - it probably won't mean so much, but the TIME will.

I only ever compete against myself - does not caring if I beat others mean I suck like the little martial artist?